A friend in Provence taught me to enjoy zucchini. Growing them is easy or buying them cheap, and they are as painless to prepare as your mood requires. For example: cut zucchini into pieces; sauté in a little olive oil; salt, sprinkle dried thyme and/or oregano; serve. An occasional slightly burnt edge will only elevate your results. Don’t forget, zukes combine especially well with eggs, tomatoes, and Parmesan. So you might spoon some tomatoes or tomato sauce over your sauté, or try this gratin: Chop an onion and spread it on the bottom of a gratin dish with a sprinkle of oil. Top with two or three layers of ¼-inch-thick zucchini slices and more olive oil. Salt and pepper lightly. Then cut tomatoes into ½-inch slices and place on top of the zucchini with salt, pepper, dried Provençal herbs, and yet another sprinkle of olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes at 365° or until it looks good enough to eat. One of my favorites when I’m in Provence is a gratin of zucchini blossoms stuffed with a garlicky brandade. Good brandade, however, is hard to come by here in the States. If you have some, all you do is spoon the brandade inside the bright yellow blossoms, drizzle olive oil over it all, and cook it in a 375° oven for 20 minutes or so. My favorite zucchini preparation is from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food (see link below). I always make enough for leftovers, which I like to warm up topped with a very simple tomato sauce, and that really sends me, as Sam Cooke would say. Especially with a Bandol rouge or rosé or something stylistically similar. Last I heard, one of Olney’s finest cookbooks is out of print. If you find it, highest recommendation. Provence: The Beautiful Cookbook. Lots of zucchini within!
Click here to view Richard Olney’s Zucchini Gratin recipe.
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